Easing college students' anxiety over choosing their major

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by New Day Producers

KING5.com

Posted on September 25, 2013 at 1:45 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 25 at 1:46 PM

College is a time of big change for kids.  They no longer have a clear road map for what they are supposed to do to get to the next step.  They get to have a choice about what direction they head by choosing a major.  While this can be an exciting time for students, it can also be overwhelming.  

You can help your student by helping them understand themselves and by supporting them in a way that will work best for them.  Below are 4 profiles of students based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (a personality assessment that helps people understand their innate preferences).  Which of these sounds like your student? 

"I want to decide and get on with it!"

This student often sees choosing a major as an item on their to-do list.  They tend to seek career counseling early and tend to choose their majors early.  Sometimes they have chosen their major by the end of their first semester.  While getting an early start can be beneficial, they might choose too quickly just to get the task of choosing out of the way.  In which case they could end up not liking their chosen major and then will choose again, very quickly, so as not to waste any more time.  Which means they might choose poorly...again.

Whether they are choosing their major for the first time or the tenth time, you can help them by:

  • Getting them to slow down.
  • Encouraging them to take classes in a number of areas of interest so they know what their options are before they decide.

"I want to experience it all."

This student loves to keep their options open, so they take lots of different kinds of courses and tend to be involved in a lot of activities.  Changing their mind helps them realize that their options are wide open.  But sometimes there are too many options to choose from and choosing itself feels really confining to them.  You can help them along by:

  • Encouraging them to talk through their ideas with a guidance counselor or academic advisor.
  • Remind them that this decision doesn't have to limit them, it is just the jumping off point for their next adventure.

And remind yourself that this student likes to talk things out.  So when they talk about one major today and another major tomorrow, they are just thinking out loud.  Their first answer in a situation like this is hardly ever their final answer.

"I want to be sure."

This student likes to stick to decisions so it is important to them to take the time to choose wisely.  As such, they tend to invest a lot of time in researching and reflecting in order to decide.  When they do decide, you might be surprised by their choice because it might be the first you've heard about it.  Just know that their decision making process happens internally and could have been going on for a long time.  

If you are worried that they aren't making any progress toward making a decision you can:

  • Point them toward resources like books, articles and websites to help them with their research.
  • Encourage them to talk to their advisor to get their hands on more resources that can help them decide.

"I wonder what I'll be when I grow up..."

These students tend to struggle with the vast amounts of information they are taking in at college and reconciling that all of that information with their inner world of logic or values.  It is important to them that their external life matches up with their internal life.  They want to consider all of their options and do so at their own pace. As a result, their decisions can be significantly delayed. 

You can help them decide by:

  • Giving them a little more space and time to decide than you think is necessary.
  • Help them see how no decision has to be final, that freedom often helps them move ahead.

Whether your student is staying close to home or heading off to the ivy leagues, they will get the most out of college by understanding more about themselves first and foremost.  When they do that, they'll do a better job of making decisions that will support their long term success.

Win a College Coaching package!

Your student can win a coaching package that includes:

  • A Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Assessment to help your student understand their preferences for:
    • where they get their energy
    • how they take in information
    • how they make decisions
    • how they orient themselves to the outer world
  • Introduction to Type in College booklet, by J. Ditiberio & A. Hammer, which covers:
    • choosing a major
    • their learning style
    • their reading, writing and studying style
    • managing stress
  • 3 Coaching sessions
    • ONE 2-hour Myers-Briggs Discovery session
    • TWO 90-minute coaching sessions to help them learn how to use this information to create a more successful college experience

If you know of a college student or high school senior who could benefit from this, send them this link:

http://www.shinealightcoaching.com/Shine_A_Light_Coaching/College.html

They must enter themselves into this contest.  The experience isn't useful unless they, themselves, are interested in going through this process.

(Content for this article was based on Introduction to Type in College by John K. Ditiberio & Allen L. Hammer)

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